What he does for a living is merely a “passion to entertain the audience,” he said. He performs on stage – miming different songs, dances to a familiar tune, and presents different acts in a comedic way.
He goes under the name Gloria Manila.
He is from a group of Filipino gay senior citizens, most popularly known as the Golden Gays.
And at 68 years old, he doesn’t see himself slowing down. He is, he stressed, “still a showgirl”.
A PLACE TO CALL HOME
Gloria moved into the house of the late Justo Justo (known to many as JJ) when he was only 15 years old, living there until he reached his twilight years.
“Mula noong namatay ang mga magulang ko, nagsosolo na ako sa buhay. Ang mga kapatid ko naman nasa Visayas lahat. Talagang nag-iisa nalang ako sa buhay ngayon (From that time when my parents died, I have been alone. My siblings are all in the Visayas. So I am really by myself now),” he said.
Gloria added: “Doon na ako sa bahay ni JJ lumaki. Kinuha nila ako at inampon. Sa kanila na ako lumaki, inalagaan ako ni Konsehal JJ (I really grew up in JJ’s house. His family took me in. They looked after me).”
In that former shelter for (mostly senior) gay men, the so-called Golden Gays had a family that they can call their own. It was something that most of them did not have. And for a time, they had a place they can call home.
“Mas masaya kami noon, noong magkakasama pa kami sa isang bahay. ‘Yung iba sa amin hindi na iniisip kung saan titira o kung may sapat na pera para pangkain kinabukasan. Dahil magkakasama kami sa isang bubong, hindi ganun kahirap (We were happy then, while we were living together. Some of us didn’t have to worry where to live or if we had enough money to buy food for the next days. Because we were living together under one roof, life didn’t seem so hard),” Gloria said.
Unfortunately, it only lasted until JJ died. His halfway shelter for the Golden Gays shut its doors.
He alleged that “mga barumbado ‘yung mga apo niya (JJ). Pinabayaan kami, pinalayas lahat ng Golden Gays. Ngayon, parang pagsubok na lahat ng mga bagay (JJ’s grandchildren were harsh. We were neglected, we were kicked out. So now, it seems that everything in life is a challenge),” he lamented.
COMEDY IN THE LIMELIGHT
But unlike some of the Golden Gays, Gloria continues to have a drive – that is, to get his share of applause from an audience, even now that he’s already in his sunset years.
Gloria started performing during the 1970s, as a regular at some of bars and clubs that offered alternative entertainment. Now, even as decades passed, he continues to perform on stage, although not as active as when he was younger.
“Naalala ko noong kabataan ko, okay ang mga raket ko, kaliwa’t kanan. Pero ngayong tumanda na ako, nahihirapan na ako. Sa mga comedy bar na lang ako nakakapag-show ngayon. Wala kasi akong alam na ibang trabaho kung hindi ang mag-show lang (I remember when I was young, I had numerous projects. But now that I am older, I am having a hard time. I now only perform in comedy bars where I get gigs. I don’t know of anything else to do aside from doing shows),” he said. “Isa talaga akong showgirl (I am a true showgirl).”
Sadly, as his age – and the physical beauty that goes with it – progresses, the workload lessened. He is no longer a regular at any comedy bar, even if he gets occasional gigs.
Gloria is also frequent at some town fiestas, plays slapstick acts that often ridicule the ugly part of being gay or sometimes his old age.
“Kahit magkano lang ang ibigay sa akin, okay lang. I don’t ask for a big amount of money, pakikisama lang ang kailangan ko, ‘yung pang-u-unawa nila. Hindi ko kailangan ng malaking pera. Kung magbibigay sila, kahit pamasahe lang, okay lang (It’s okay with me whatever amount is handed to me. I don’t ask for a big amount of money, just the companionship, and their understanding. I don’t need a lot of money. If they give me something, even if it’s just for my fare, that’s fine by me),” Gloria added.
Aside from his stint as a showgirl, he is also pre-occupied with his small beauty salon in Quezon City.
“Binigyan ako ng parlor ng asawa ko. Pero minsan mahina ang kita doon. Alam mo naman ang kita sa parlor – minsan wala, minsan mayroon. Kung wala akong mga shows, sa parlor ako nag-s-stay at nagbabantay (My partner gave me a parlor. But sometimes that doesn’t earn. You know how parlors are – sometimes they earn, sometimes not. If I don’t have shows, I stay at the parlor and look after it),” Gloria said. “Pero sa ngayon, pinagkatiwala ko sa kapatid ko ‘yung parlor, ‘yung pera na kita napupunta sa kanya. Binibigyan naman niya ako ng pangkain sa araw-araw, 60 pesos (But now I entrusted the parlor to a sibling, so the money the place earns goes to that sibling who just gives me money for food every day, 60 pesos).”
OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
For every struggle Gloria experiences, he finds solace through one of the greatest things that happened to him – his almost lifelong relationship with his partner.
He met this wonderful man during his 40s and they have been together for 26 years and still counting.
“Malungkot ako ngayon, wala akong katabi sa pagtulog. One and a half years na siyang nasa Mindanao kasama ang pamilya niya. Pero tinatawagan naman niya ako sa cellphone, kinakamusta niya ako (I am sad now because I have no one beside me when I sleep. He’s been in Mindanao for one and a half years now to be with his family. But he calls me to ask how I am),” Gloria said.
He remains hopeful that in the near future, his partner will come back to Manila to be with him again.
“Alam ko babalik pa siya para magkasama ulit kami. Minsan tinanong ko siya kung may asawa na siyang iba dahil ang tagal na niyang hindi umuuwi dito, wala naman daw (I know he will come back so we can be together again. Sometimes I ask him if he has found someone else, and this is why he hasn’t been with me for a while; but he said he doesn’t have anybody else),” he added.
So for the time being, Gloria said that he will continue to entertain people through his knack in making everyone smile. Because after all, even if he’s already in his sunset years, he is and always will be a showgirl.
“Wala akong gustong baguhin sa buhay ko. Naging masaya ako sa mga napagdaanan ko. Bakit ako may babaguhin? Magaganda naman ang naging buhay namin, pati na ang naging samahan namin ng mga Golden Gays (There is nothing I will change in my life. I’ve been happy with what I went through. Why would I want to change anything? Life has been beautiful, particularly the relationships we’ve formed with the Golden Gays),” Gloria ended.
To donate or extend help to The Home for the Golden Gays, visit http://homeforthegoldengays.org/ or email email@example.com.